Josquin des Prez (ca. 1440-1521) is the first major composer whose repertory and reputation vastly outlived their maker. His motets in particular were copied, printed, performed, and studied throughout the sixteenth century, marking the emergence of a new phenomenon in the history of western music. The present dissertation considers many of the forces that contributed to the longevity of these works and the composer's posthumous fame. At the core is the blossoming of music historiography as an outgrowth of the humanistic movement. Stylistic and nationalistic considerations also put Josquin at the center of methodical explorations of music's recent past.
The first chapter of this study examines the role of printed anthologies in the preservation and dissemination of Josquin's motets. Publications of Petrucci, Grimm & Wyrsung, Formschneider, Berg & Neuber, and LeRoy & Ballard are among those considered. Close readings of dedicatory letters, studies of the repertorial organization and scope, and investigations of the interests, aesthetics, and agendas of the compilers of these volumes document a sixteenth-century perception of the historical significance and timely relevance of this repertory.
The next chapter explores Josquin as a subject in sixteenth-century musical thought. In music treatises and other non-musical texts, Josquin is frequently associated with notions of genius and natural talent; his music is subjected to some of the earliest attempts at music criticism. His motets are also associated with the changing status of music from a mathematical craft to a poetic art. For these reasons his music is considered a turning point in accounts of music's past and he is thought to be the originator of a new modern style.
The third and fourth chapters explore ways in which sixteenth-century musicians interacted with Josquin's motets: the circuitous paths by which they traveled, the adaptations and revisions to which they were subjected, and how other composers explored these works through parody, imitation and by adding si placet parts.
To conclude this study, comparisons between the fate of Josquin's motets and those of his contemporaries, particularly Mouton and Isaac, place in greater relief the unique regard for Josquin.